Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region of Azerbaijan mainly inhabited by ethnic Armenians and backed by Yerevan, has been the scene of deadly clashes since late September.
Here is a timeline:
Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, have accused each other of initiating deadly clashes that broke out on September 27 in their decades-long territorial dispute.
Ethnic Armenian separatists seized the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Baku in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives. Since then, clashes have occurred repeatedly.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry says it launched a “counter-offensive” to protect the population, while separatist authorities claim the troops bombed the regional capital Stepanakert.
Read more: What will be the unintended consequences of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Nagorno-Karabakh authorities declare martial law and military mobilisation, while Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev also declares martial law and a curfew in Baku and several cities.
Fuel to the flames
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a firm supporter of Azerbaijan, on September 28 calls on Armenia to end its “occupation” of Nagorno-Karabakh. The next day Armenia says a Turkish F-16 fighter jet that took off from Azerbaijan shot down an Armenian warplane.
Azerbaijan President: "Turkish F-16 fighter jets came here because of a military exercise and they stayed because the Armenians attacked us. And they are here as a sign of solidarity. They do not take part in any fights, nor are they planned to take part." https://t.co/OUzvcwgw1q
— AVSEC Pro (@avsec_pro) October 31, 2020
Turkey denies the claim. Moscow, which has a military alliance with Yerevan, urges Ankara not to “add fuel to the flames” by encouraging Baku’s campaign. The United Nations Security Council unanimously calls on both sides to stop fighting.
Regional conflagration fears
On September 30, Russia says fighters from Syria and Libya are being deployed to the conflict. Azerbaijan’s leader vows to pursue military action until a full Armenian withdrawal from the disputed territory. On October 1, the presidents of France, Russia, and the US call for a ceasefire.
On October 2, regional capital Stepanakert comes under heavy shelling. Armenia expresses readiness to work with international mediators to reach a ceasefire with Azerbaijan. On October 4, fighting intensifies, with Stepanakert and Ganja in western Azerbaijan under fire.
Read more: Azerbaijan captures Karabakh town of Shusha
On October 6, Armenia’s Pashinyan says Turkey’s encouragement of Azerbaijan is to blame for the outbreak of fighting and is confident of Russian support.
The following day, separatist authorities say half of the enclave’s 140,000 inhabitants have been displaced. On October 8, the Ghazanchetsots (Holy Saviour) Cathedral, an iconic site for the Armenian Apostolic Church in Karabakh, is bombed.
On October 10, after Russia-mediated talks, Armenia and Azerbaijan announce a ceasefire, but it is broken as soon as it takes effect, both sides blaming each other.
On October 14, the Azerbaijan army says it hit missile launch sites in Armenia. Yerevan says it “reserves” the right to hit any infrastructure or military site anywhere in Azerbaijan.
Turkey’s president denies any pro-Turkish Syrian forces are engaged in the conflict. On October 15, Stepanakert suffers fresh bombardment.
Azerbaijan promises to avenge the death of 13 civilians, including children, who were killed by an Armenian missile strike on Ganja city pic.twitter.com/lXtZsYlSyi
— TRT World (@trtworld) October 17, 2020
Two days later, Azerbaijan vows to avenge the deaths of 13 civilians in an overnight missile strike on Ganja. Armenian separatists justify their riposte by accusing Baku of targeting civilian infrastructure.
Nearly 5,000 dead: Putin
On October 18 a new humanitarian truce is immediately breached. Armenia and Azerbaijan again blame each other. After the UN Security Council calls for respect of a ceasefire, Armenia’s prime minister on October 21 rules out a diplomatic solution.
The following day Putin says the death toll in more than three weeks of fighting is “nearing 5,000”. The officially confirmed number of fatalities remains below one thousand. On October 26, a third ceasefire collapses and Armenia and Azerbaijan trade accusations of violating it within minutes of it coming into force.
Read more: Russian President Putin warns Karabakh deaths soaring as diplomats scramble
Armenia asks Moscow for help
On October 31, the Armenian Prime Minister asks Putin to start “urgent” consultations on the assistance Russia could provide.
Moscow declares its readiness to provide the “necessary” assistance to Armenia if the fighting spreads into Armenian territory. Baku says it has no intention of launching a military attack on Armenia.
Possible ‘war crimes’
On November 2, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet raises the possibility that war crimes have been committed due to “indiscriminate” attacks against civilian populations.
Read more: UN rights chief warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Karabakh conflict
Azerbaijan claims to have taken Shusha
On November 8, Azerbaijan claims its troops have captured the key town of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh, in what, if confirmed, would be a major victory. Armenia denies it, but admits that fighting there is ongoing.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk